Quite simply, the best I have ever stayed in.
Over the years I have been lucky enough to have travelled a bit, and, occasionally (normally if someone else was paying!) I have had the pleasure of staying in some wonderful hotels. If absolutely pushed, however, I would have to say this is my favourite hotel in the world. A bold statement I know, but please allow me to explain.
Think about your perfect hotel. What would you want from it? Well, comfort obviously. Perhaps friendly staff, atention to detail, a good restaurant, relaxing atmosphere and to use a much overused phrase, a home away from home. GF, as I call it, is all this and more.
Admittedly, it is not in some exotic location, it is situated just outside a fairly ordinary dormitory town outside London. No palm trees or breaking waves (although they have an outdoor pool for summer swimming) but still a remarkable place to stay. Let me try to paint you a picture, if the photos do not help you. Speaking of photos, as there was not sufficient room, I have put some more pictures in a travelogue for Egham, which you may wish to look at.
Arriving up the drive you are confronted with the sicene of a beautifully preserved 16th century building, once apparently a hunting lodge for royalty. Do not be put off by the huge closed oak doors. Open the small door within a door and enter a magical place. If. like me, you are tall (I am 6'5") be a little careful, the door was built for smaller people than us!
The first thing you will notice is the smell. Believe me, I do not wish to put you off by this, the smell is that of a huge open wood fire surrounded, as you see in the photo, by a magnificent carved fireplace. Even in the summer, when the fire is not lit, the smell permeates the place, and is quite wonderful. You would, in truth, think you had wandered into a museum. An antique grand piano, moulded plaster ceilings, original artwork on the walls, and sofas in front of the aforementioned fire that you could happily fall into and never get out of.
If you can manage to drag yourself through this wonderful room (you could never call it a lobby or a foyer) you come to the reception desk, and here, for me, is where the place really scores. You can have the most wonderful building in the world but if the staff do not match, you have nothing. I love the staff at GF. They are friendly and helpful without ever being obsequious. A polyglot mix of French, Polish, Thai, NewZealanders and so on, they are generally young, and, again becoming cliched, nothing is too much trouble for them. There is a genuine sense that they love the place and want to make you love it as well.
I could tell you about the cocktail lounge with the patio overlooking the award winning gardens, or the Residents Lounge, small, intimate, and with yet more overly comfortable seating, and more of the gardens later. However, I will tell you about what you probably want to read, namely the bedrooms. I always stay in the old building, and so should you. If, however, it is full, I know there are newer rooms (I am told they are very pleasant) in the Coach House, and still more in the Cloisters, which are both seperate buildings, although more modern. For me, though, the Old House is the place.
Go up the stairs (unfortunately, the Old House would not be suitable for mobility impaired visitors by it's very nature), pausing briefly to admire the centuries old velvet curtains and the proper carpet with real metal stair rods, you will arrive at the first floor. There are some great rooms here. I love a hotel where the rooms have names and not numbers. The Corridor Room is very good, with a huge free-standing bath and a full length mirror with a TV in it, Baroness Halkett and Justice Foster are both lovely, but I am saving the best to last.
Go up another floor, mounting a perilously steep ancient spiral staircase (don't worry, the staff are very good at getting your luggage up there but see the photo for an idea) and you come to my favourite room in the place, the Tower. Wonderfully comfortable, it is simply the best place you would ever want to stay. OK, no internet connection (well, I don't think so), no minibar, no 200 channel satellite TV. Who needs them? That is not what this place is about. Instead you can lie in the wonderfully comfortable bed and look out the leaded mullioned windows onto the gardens (I am getting to them, honestly) or gaze at the oak beam in a ceiling that has been looked upon by centuries of nobility. It does not get any better, believe me. Now, there is a catch. The Tower is the only non ensuite room in the place, as the photo indicates, but there is a private bathroom back down the staircase. Really, it is not a great price to pay, and the bathroom is immaculate.
OK, to the gardens, at last. I am in no way, shape or form a gardener, I could not grow weeds, but the gardens at GF are really something. Over 50 acres of immaculately kept grounds, it really is a wonder. The photgraphs were all taken on a snowy winter day, which was pleasant in it's way, but in summer, they are nothing short of magnificent. You can wander for ages, discovering small hedged off areas where you can sit and read quietly, or the little summer house (great for a picnic), or just admire the skill of the gardeners with the remarkable topiary.
All that garden exploration will have made you hungry, no doubt, so on to the food. I have only ever eaten breakfast at GF, although I am told the restaurant for lunch or dinner is excellent. If the breakfasts are anything to go by, I can believe it. There is an extensive cold buffet, and a good selection of hot breakfasts. The Full English is filling, or for something lighter, I adore the haddock poached in milk or the brioche French toast with back bacon. I intend to eat there in the evening as soon as time allows and so will post another tip.
UPDATE - May 2009. I have now eaten dinner in the outstanding Oak Room restaurant and it was every bit as good as I imagined it would be when I initially wrote this tip.
If you do stay in this here, you will be in good company. Apart form all the aristocracy, Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin both enjoyed the hospitality of this wonderful place.
Yes, I sound overly enthusiastic about this place and, no, I am nothing to do with the hotel. Have a look at my other pages and you will see I did not just log onto VT to write this. I am genuinely in love with the place. If you stay there once, you will be too.
Update July 2010.
I try to keep my tips up to date so people know it is not old information. I stay here quite a bit and the standards remain excellent. It is still as good as it always was, and still my favourite hotel bar none.
Unique Quality: How many unique qualities would you like? The rooms, the history, the gardens, the superlative staff, excellent food, it just goes on. As I said in the title of the tip, the best place I have ever stayed.
Directions: See the website, it is easier than me explaining.
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We've found that other people looking for this hotel also know it by these names:
- Great Fosters Egham
- Great Fosters Hotel Egham
Address: Sroude Road, Egham, England TW20
5 Photos of Great FostersView Professional Photos
Amenities at Great Fosters
- Swimming Pool
- Wheelchair Accessible
- Room Service
- Free Parking
- Free High Speed Internet
- Bar / Lounge
- Airport Transportation
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